AUSTIN-Charles Schwab & Co. is bullish on Austin’s 23-acre Research Park Plaza, signing its second lease in a month for back-to-back building projects, totaling 358,000 sf, that will deliver in summer 2001.

The structures are being constructed via a joint venture of Cousins Properties Inc. and CommonWealth Partners, owners of a 13-acre tract within the development. Schwab plans to use the entire space in both buildings for call centers, a Cousins Properties spokeswoman tells Schwab, which already leases 115,000 sf in the park, has said it plans to employ up to 3,500 at the site. The call center will launch in June, with an initial workforce of about 600 people.

The 184,000-sf Building II had broken ground about two weeks ago. It is to be finished in August 2001, delivering roughly two months after the completion of the 174,000-sf Building I. Meanwhile, the Cousins team is hoping to pre-lease a third building, which will bring another 174,000 sf to the Austin market. That building’s construction start, which will result in full park build-out, will be predicated on its pre-leasing, has been told.

“The ability to fully lease this project ten months before opening attests to the experience of our leasing and development teams, and the demand for well located office space created by a rapidly growing Austin economy,” says Michael Croft, CommonWealth president and CEO.

Buildings I and II are situated on 13 acres of the park, which has two other structures that had been developed by a Cousins affiliate–Cousins Stone–in a joint venture with another partner. This leg of the development between Cousins Properties and CommonWealth carries the backing of $1 billion in core funding from CalPERS, the nation’s largest pension fund.

The current building projects have been designed by Susman, Tisdale & Gayle of Austin; the general contractor is Constructors & Associates, also of Austin. Julien J. Studley has been representing Charles Schwab & Co. in the lease negotiations while in-house brokers for the joint venture have been acting on in its behalf.

In all, Cousins Stone, which is 50% owned by Cousins Properties, manages about 7 million sf in Texas, primarily office properties. In Austin, the Atlanta-based REIT presently is developing a 1-million sf corporate campus for Motorola. Cousins’ Research Park Plaza partner, CommonWealth is based in Southern California. Its principals have developed more than 15 million sf of office space in the US. Most of its more than $1 billion investment portfolio is located in the Southwest.

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